By Chris Dobney and Darren Coyne
Country Labor’s Isaac Smith is the new mayor of Lismore.
Following the distribution of preferences, Smith won over his nearest rival Greg Bennett, a member of the Shooters and Fishers Party.
Smith managed 10,596 votes while Bennett scored 8,609 votes. An official declaration will take 24 hours to allow for any candidate to ask for a recount.
“The wait is over. We did it! I’m proud to be your new Mayor!!!’ Smith announced on social media just after 3pm.
Outgoing mayor Jenny Dowell posted in reply: ‘A wonderful result! Congratulations Mayor Smith.’
For the record, Mr Big Rob scored the least amount of votes of any candidate in the mayoral field, managing just 806 votes, or 3.11 per cent.
Also interesting to note is that Mr Rob’s Group D ticket scored 666 votes.
Sometimes the devil is in the detail.
Update, 2pm: David Wright has been re-elected mayor of Ballina while the Lismore mayoral election has come down to a tussle between Country Labor’s Isaac Smith and Greg Bennett, a member of the Shooters and Fishers Party.
In Ballina, Cr Wright has won with 9922 votes ahead of former Greens councillor and now independent Jeff Johnson with 8675.
Ironically, Cr Wright was re-elected on the back of Greens preferences.
Meanwhile, counting is continuing in Lismore, where Smith leads Bennett, with the preferences from National party-alligned Neil Marks being distributed.
Following the allocation of Greens candidate Vanessa Ekins’ preferences, Mr Smith’s lead stood at
43.69 per cent, with Bennett at 28.54 per cent and Marks at 27.76 per cent.
Original report: It will be another 24 hours before the mayors of Ballina and Lismore LGAs are officially declared.
It follows a tense couple of days after counting was first of all held up for a handful of votes to be delivered from Sydney, and then preferences for candidate after candidate have had to be counted to reach a result.
Ballina returning officer Ian Smith told Echonetdaily that even though counters are close to a final result, the public will have to wait until it is officially confirmed tomorrow.
In Ballina shire, a three-way preference exchange has put pressure on sitting mayor David Wright, while fellow mayoral candidate Jeff Johnson has questioned the Greens’ motives for preferencing Cr Wright ahead of him.
Meanwhile in Lismore, Country Labor candidate Isaac Smith continues to lead, with Shooters and Fishers Party member Greg Bennett defying expectations to run second in the first preference vote ahead of the National Party-aligned candidate Neil Marks.
Ballina mayoral tussle
Ballina mayoral candidate Jeff Johnson said he was ‘disappointed’ the Greens had not preferenced him in his bid for mayor.
‘I was very surprised to see on the Greens how-to-vote card that they recommended David Wright for mayor,’ he told Echonetdaily.
‘I believe that decision by the Greens has given David an eight per cent boost to his vote, given so many voters just [follow] the Greens how-to-vote card.’
‘Given I’m a progressive candidate, and I’ve campaigned on saving Ballina’s koalas, moving the bitumen plant – all these issues you would think the Greens would support, particularly given David Wright has an opposite view – I was surprised they actively promoted David to be the next mayor,’ he said.
Greens Ballina spokesperson Tony Gilding said the issue had been fully debated within the branch and the decision to support Cr Wright had been taken by rank and file members.
‘We went through that process with all of our members in an open and democratic forum and anybody who chooses to be a member or the Greens is welcome to come along and be a part of that process but we don’t discuss the content of those meetings outside of the [membership].
‘We are very confident that our decision-making processes are very stable and very strong and in the interests of the environment and good governance.
‘In that meeting, all factors were considered – and we have a good sized membership of very smart, aware people and we debated the decision.
‘It’s self-evident that the decision we made is the one we believe is the right decision,’ he told Echonetdaily.
Mr Johnson himself preferenced former National Party member Sharon Cadwallader and Labor Party member Keith Williams in a three-way deal aimed at getting a councillor from B Ward over the line as mayor.
‘I swapped preferences with Keith Williams and Sharon as number three in the hope that we would get a B Ward mayor, which would have also got Nathan Cooper, the Greens candidate, elected,’ he told Echonetdaily.
‘For too long there have been four councillors up in C Ward, so there was an exchange that was going to increase the likelihood that we would get a mayor from a different ward,’ he said.